"Many say they are sorry to hear of Zbigniew Karkowsky's death. I, for one, am not.
I still hear Zbigniew's infectious laugh, hear his voice, see the sparkle of mischief in his eyes. Ripping a poster of an exhibition that my piece BLIND DATE was in off the window of a packed Yamanote-sen in Tokyo, then showing it to a suited salaryman and encouraging him to take his children to look for it in the show. Both of us laughing hysterically when the train was gone.
Zbigniew always seemed utterly without fear. His final gesture, traveling for hours in a canoe into the Amazon jungle directly after flights from Europe lasting nearly 24 hours, to be treated by a Shipbo shaman is perfectly in keeping with everything else he did. All the way, no compromise. His final wish, if the treatment failed, was to be left in the jungle to be eaten. No ceremony, no grave. If it succeeded as he hoped, he said he would bring back stories of the adventure. Somehow, I still expect to hear them.
A Karkowsky concert often meant that we would see smoke rising from the burning speakers of the overdriven PA, fumes clearing the room. As much as he seemed to enjoy it when that happened, frankly I doubt that this was ever done for effect: he simply demanded that his music be heard with the power that he intended, that he himself heard. During a residency, one of several, at The Compound in San Francisco, director Naut Humon proudly remembered that Zbigniew played lower frequencies at volumes so high that they shattered the toilet bowl. Musicians who worked with him often spoke of him with unabashed admiration, said they looked forward to a chance to do it again.
Yes, Zbigniew was often cruel when drunk, plenty of those stories to go around. So far, I have yet to meet anyone who isn't. Alcohol is a seductive, motherless bitch to anyone who lets her have her way. She slams doors of friendship shut and, under her influence, Zbigniew slammed a few more than his share.
When Zbigniew moved to Tokyo, he was fortunate enough to meet Atsuko (I never did hear her last name), who stayed together with him for fifteen years, travelled to Greece to spend a last several days together, saw him off in Paris for the flight to Peru. If she and I never meet, here I send her a huge, heartfelt Thank You.
So today, and many more days like it, will be spent thinking of that laugh, that love of entertaining friends, that cavalier and uncompromising sense of daring. One of the first phrases in Japanese that Zbigniew said he learned was 'Omanko wa oishii' -- 'Cunt is delicious'. Here, too, he was absolutely right."
(John Duncan, 13.12.2013.)